Dove was one of about 40 people who turned out on a snowy Monday night to take part in the provincial government’s pre-budget consultations in Gander.
“Everyone knows how tight finances are,” Dove told TC Media. “While the province does quite well with revenue, we’re one of the worst provinces with regard to expenditure ….”
Premier Dwight Ball—who was in town to announce joint provincial/federal funding for a new waste water treatment facility for Gander—stayed on to address the crowd and take part in the round table discussions.
Gander MHA and minister of Health and Community Services, John Haggie, set out the framework for the evening’s discussion, which was based on The Way Forward document issued in the fall.
He also confirmed there would be no further tax increases.
“We said in Budget 2016 that the tax increases we had made then were it—we weren’t going to have any more and we’re sticking with that,” Haggie said. “So our focus now has to be on not generating revenue but dealing with the expenditure issue we currently have.”
A facilitator joined each table to conduct discussion around four major topics: creating a more efficient public service, creating a stronger economic foundation, delivering better services and generating better outcomes.
Derek Bennett, MHA for Lewisporte-Twillingate also took part in the sessions.
Dove, chair of Gander’s finance committee, said the town took the opportunity to stress the importance of the 70/30 split between the province and the town in terms of financing infrastructure projects.
“That allows us to do quite a bit of work. At the time we talked about this, the premier was actually at our table, so we cautioned him that we wouldn’t want to see any reduction in that 70/30,” he said.
The town also lobbied for a tax on hotel rooms, in line with the four per cent levy charged on St. John’s hotel rooms.
“We see it as an opportunity for us. If we were getting some kind of revenue from that we could put it into recreational facilities or find other uses,” he added. “That’s a provincially legislated thing so we hope that the province looks at that.”
Debbie Yannakidis, chair of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce said there was good mixture of people, including business people and representatives from local organizations.
“It was a good opportunity to voice your opinion.”
The Chamber also made written submission.
According to Yannakidis, their recommendations included a red tape reduction “to make it an easier and smoother process for small business people to navigate through the government corridors.”
They also suggested that immigration be increased because “it has a direct impact on local business in terms of workers.”
Yannakidis said the Chamber also took the opportunity to promote an aerospace project they’re working on with other partners, in an attempt to make Gander “an aerospace hub.”
“We’re very optimistic that the effort that was put into our presentation wasn’t in vain and that it would actually be looked at and considered seriously by government.”